Sunday, 23 November 2014

Dartford parkrun 17 - grey skies, the mayor and the dartford half-marathon 2015

At Dartford parkrun event 17 I was feeling a little under the weather. I had had a few days off after catching the world's worst bug. Some people probably wouldn't have run, but this is me and it was parkrunday, so of course I just got on with it.

It rained, it stopped, it rained, it stopped. 9am came around, we ran the course. The rain held off, but came down a little heavier just as the last few runners were coming back in. Then it stopped again. My jumper which I had hung on the fence was now pretty wet.

The mayor of Dartford came along to run at the event and wore a Dartford Half Marathon t-shirt to help to promote 2015's event. I've never run the Dartford half, but I have signed up for the 2015 event and I can't wait! It is usually held in the summer, but from 2015 it will take place in March, which should work well for anyone training for the VMLM.

There is a little article on the dartfordonline webpage about the mayor's visit which also gives some more details about the half marathon.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Goudhurst junior parkrun (#1)

When I heard that there would be a junior parkrun in the attractive village of Goudhurst my initial reaction was something along the lines of ‘but that’s in the middle of nowhere!’. While that is true, it does sit quite nicely in between a number of established Kent 5k parkrun venues. Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells are both only a 20 minute drive away, Maidstone is a little further at 27 minutes, while Ashford is furthest of the four at about 40 minutes.

typical tudor building in goudhurst [photo:7t]

Travelling by public transport alone is virtually impossible. There used to be a train station in Goudhurst but this was closed in 1961 and demolished a few years later. The closest remaining train station is Marden (Kent), but it is over 5 miles away from Goudhurst. The main problem is that the two bus services that run through Goudhurst (the 26 and the 297) do not run on Sundays. So unless you live very close, you'll have to rely on your own vehicle or look into the possibility of getting a taxi from Marden or Tunbridge Wells train stations, which all seems a little extreme for a 2 kilometre run.

the church tower [photo:7t]

We drove our 4 year old junior runner and her two cousins in the car from Dartford and it took about an hour door-to-door. The officially listed car parking facilities are as follows; behind Goudhurst Village Hall or at Goudhurst Primary School. There is also some space to park on Back Lane, but it is pretty narrow. Goudhurst junior parkrun takes place on The Glebe Field. This open grass area is adjacent to the grounds of St. Mary's Church, which sits at the highest point of the village.

the church [photo:7t]

The church records date back to 1119 but it is thought that the church itself dates back further than this. It is also the most prominent landmark of the village and the church tower is open on weekend afternoons between Easter and mid-July where visitors can admire the stunning view across the Weald of Kent. There are toilet and cafĂ© facilities in the Church Rooms right next to the field.

ready to go? [photo:7t]

An important point I will highlight again is that Junior parkruns, while all on Sundays, do not all have the same start time and not all venues put on events every week. The point I'm trying to make here is to spend some time checking these details on each venue’s website before you travel. Goudhurst junior parkrun starts at 9.45am, which is probably better than 9am as I imagine most runners will be travelling from outside of the village and the extra time will most likely be appreciated.

and they're off [photo:dani]

I would usually have had a freedom run before the event got underway, but we were a little later than I had planned due to the A21 being closed for roadworks. So we spent a bit of time taking photos - my daughter even had a go with the DSLR and produced a couple of great photos of her cousins. The run was preceded by a short briefing and a warm up. My daughter really seems to enjoy the warm up, so I'm pleased that they take the time to do it.

looks like fun [photo:dani]

The course configuration produces the most laps we have encountered to date on our junior parkrun tour – this one takes place over four 500 metre laps all within the boundaries of the field. The advantage of this is that it is very compact and parents are always within around 100 metres of their children. The downsides of this layout are; keeping track of how many laps each child has completed; and keeping the younger (or slower) children motivated to complete all four laps when they see that the other children have already stopped running.

i don't always receive an invite to run, but when i do i always accept [photo:dani]

The course is flat but smaller legs may notice the tiny change in gradient along the length of the football field. It takes place on a mixture of grass and a gravelly path, so is likely to be a bit mucky during the winter months, but we all like playing in the mud, right? (I do). It also worth noting that the ground underfoot is very uneven and bumpy whilst running across the football pitch, and in the winter months you'll probably get wet feet so take a spare pair of shoes and socks along.

pretty much spot on with our synchronised strides [photo:dani]

When viewed from the air the course looks a bit like a curvy Pac-Man (do kids these days know who Pac-Man is??). The field itself is only just larger than the child sized football field that occupies the centre of it. The 2k route starts on the southern edge and weaves its way along and across the football pitch and around the posts of the western goal before moving onto the northern and western footpaths until they lead back around to the start/finish area.

it's sometimes nice to just have a bit of fun [photo:dani]

I was lucky enough to be issued with an invite to join Matilda on her run today. Once we started the second lap, the small cones marking the route became objects that we had to hurdle which was great fun. About two-and-a-half laps in, she needed a short walking break. She soon got going again, but when she reached the end of lap 3 and saw that most of the other children had finished running, she also wanted to stop. After a bit of encouragement, she continued with the final lap. Towards the end, she found a huge burst of energy and sprinted away in the direction of the cheering volunteers, runners and parents at the finish funnel.

her seventh junior parkrun (sixth venue) complete [photo:dani]

After the run, I managed to squeeze in my freedom run while my daughter, wife, niece and nephew headed off to the Church Rooms where there were complimentary drinks and cakes for all of today's participants, parents, supporters and volunteers. The Church Rooms boast a fantastic view across the Weald of Kent and the results were processed while everyone took the opportunity to socialise over the fantastic chocolate brownies.

the view from the church rooms [photo:dani]

It's a lovely little village and it really feels like it's going to be a very close knit community - and maybe even more so than some other events because of its rural location.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Dartford parkrun 16 - my little helper, pacers and the elite athlete

This event marked Dartford parkrun's first 'pacer's day', and it started in the usual way except that I had brought my nephew with me to assist in the course setup. Plus when we turned up we had a new setup companion in the shape of the current second fastest SLGR parkrunner, Adam. So we headed off and left Richey (ED) to focus on the organising pacers.

stones corner [photo:dani]

I don't know how many people noticed, but I actually forgot to put one of the course arrows in place. Luckily we had a marshal on hand who was in position to direct the runners. It was another slightly disappointing run for me today; yes I stayed under 20 minutes, but I'm a about 40 seconds off the times I was running before my recent foot issues.

After the run, I took up my usual role of barcode scanner and once everyone had been accounted for, I handed over the scanner and tokens to the very able post-run team while I coordinated the signage collection and packed it away our lovely storage container, all ready for event 17.

seeing this makes me so happy [photo:dani]

Meanwhile, over at the Dartford Harriers track, everyone was a little excited by the presence of Commonwealth Games 2014 double silver medalist and European champs 2014 double gold medalist Adam Gemili. He was in town for an appearance at the Dartford town centre Christmas lights 'Big Switch On' event and was doing a spot of training at the track beforehand.

Then, just after the results had been processed, the chairman of Dartford Harriers AC called me and Richey over to have our photo taken with him. He was in the middle of a training session, but was very happy to spend a little time posing with us.

richey estcourt, steven stockwell (me), adam gemili, tony durey [photo:anoushka johnson]

This week's event marked a new record in efficiency - We had all the kit packed away by 10am and the results were processed and uploaded by 10.10am. It feels like we're getting pretty slick with all this (apart from me forgetting to put that arrow in the ground - whoops!). :)

Gravesend Floodlit Series 2014: 10k (November)

I first heard about the midweek Gravesend Floodlit Series of races, which are held at the Cyclopark (Gravesend, Kent), last year (2013/14 series) and I had always intended to enter one. In the end I never managed to build up the enthusiasm to leave the warm house to run in the cold, wind and rain on a dark Thursday evening.

the runners forming at the start [photo:dani]

By the time the weather had started to improve, the series came to an end and I had missed that season’s opportunities. So I made a note to make an extra effort to attend when the 2014/15 series came around. This series started in October 2014 and as I was a little bit injured, I sensibly sat out the first one of the series. By the week of race two, I was fit enough to run. So a few days before the race, I put my entry in via the runbritain website and paid the affiliated entry fee of £8 (unaffiliated was £10 in advance). The series features two different race distance options; the 5k or the 10k. As I have run 5k around the track on many occasions, I decided to go for the 10k.

On the night, I arrived at the Cyclopark and parked in the onsite car park (£1) and continued into the Cyclocafe to pick up my race number and meet up with the rest of my So Let’s Go Running (SLGR) team mates. A lot of runners had been delayed by the terrible traffic jams caused by a number of incidents on the roads around Dartford throughout the day, so some of the runners that had intended to run the 5k (7pm start) had gone for the 10k (7.30pm start) instead – while some other delayed runners had run 5k but started at the 10k start time. So at 7.28-ish the 72 10k (and a few 5k) runners formed on the start line – the big difference with this race to any other that I had done here was that we were running anti-clockwise; in the past I had only ever run it clockwise, so as well as running a new distance on the track, it was also like running a completely different course.

arty 01 [photo:dani]

I had lined up a few rows back from the front of the grid and after a few brief words from the Race Director, Martin Burke (of Nice Work), we were sent on our way. The 10k race consisted of four laps of the track and although my fitness was a bit off what it had been a few months earlier, I decided to approach the race with an optimistic attitude and set my sights on running under forty minutes. Another thing I had never done at the track was run on it in the dark.

The main start/finish area is very well lit and this continued down and into the first couple of bends, however when reaching the extremities of the course, the lighting was not quite the same – at best we were guided by some small beacons at the edge of the track. Fortunately I had been pre-warned of this darkness and I had brought a torch with me. Admittedly, it wasn't very bright but it threw out just enough light to help me to see the edges of the track where they border the grass.

arty 02 - it is me btw [photo:dani]

The weather conditions were good for November, but the Cyclopark suffers from being in quite a windy spot and it was blowing quite a bit at some points on the course. I ran lap one with a few other runners in close contact, however by the end of the lap it had dwindled down to just two of us and we passed the start/finish line in 9.43. The SLGR club chairman, Brian Page, was at the start/finish area to give all of the #TeamSLGR runners a boost every 2.5 kilometres and as I passed he also advised me that I was in sixth position.

I stayed tucked in behind the other runner until we reached the hardest of the inclines where I moved into fifth position and began to pull away. By the end of lap two I was running alone, but had somehow let the pace slip a little (I wonder if I had got caught up in running at the other runner’s pace rather than my own during our time together) and went past the start/finish in 19.53. I was still just within the window for a sub-40 finish, but my speed had dropped below the required pace. From this point the only other runners I encountered were the ones I had begun to lap.

arty 03 [photo:dani]

I came back around to the start/finish at the end of lap 3 with the clock showing exactly 30 minutes. I was still in fifth position and there was around a 40 second gap between myself and the runner in front of me, and the runner behind me was over a minute adrift. So I knew my finishing position was secure. This just left my own personal goal, I had completed the first three laps in 9.43, 10.10, and 10.07 but I now needed a sub-10 minute final lap to get a 39.xx time.

I got my head down and throughout the last lap caught up with more and more of the slower runners and had to weave through them (sometimes taking the corners a little wider than I would have liked). I came around the last hairpin bend and had about 200 metres left to go, soon after, the timing clock came into sight. I was running as hard as I possibly could at this point and as I reached the crest of the final incline I felt the course profile change to a slight downhill and I continued, now sprinting towards the ticking clock; 39.55, 39.56, 39.57… I was giving it all I had at this point. I crossed the line and as it was downhill I carried on for another 20 metres or so before I could break my momentum and stop. The clock was showing either 39.59 or 40.00 as I passed it, but I didn't know exactly which one it was as the last few metres were a blur.

some of the slgr runners that ran and our club chairman [photo:from dawn annett's camera]

Once all of the runners had finished, we headed into the Cyclocafe for the prize giving ceremony. We had a good turnout of SLGR runners (10 in the 5k and 6 in the 10k) and one of our team (co-founder of SLGR, Dawn Annett) won one of the women’s prizes (a bottle of wine), she looked very thrilled when she heard the news and it was great to see one of our club come away with a prize. The official results were online very soon after the prize ceremony and my official time was 40.00. Not the sub-40 that I was hoping to run, but still respectable and it has given me a short term goal to focus on before the next race!
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